As four out of five women in India wish to become entrepreneurs, the country is missing out on a potential 15.5 million new businesses and 64 million additional jobs by not addressing the challenges facing such women, a new Facebook study said on Wednesday. The study revealed that if just 52 percent of women were empowered to start a business today, it would not only boost economic growth, but also help to build 15.5 million new businesses, and create 64 million additional jobs — all by the end of 2021.
“If we were to harness the largely untapped potential of women’s entrepreneurship and provide them greater support, it could lead to more jobs being created, economic growth and more diverse and representative small business communities,” Ankhi Das, Director of Public Policy, Facebook India, South and Central Asia, told reporters here.
“We are very optimistic about partnering with platforms like Facebook to empower women. We are trying to forge deep partnerships with platforms like Google, Cisco and Intel for the betterment of woman’s livelihood through technology,” added Aruna Sundarajan, Secretary, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), in her keynote address.
Ahead of the International Women’s Day that falls on March 8, Facebook also launched “SheLeadsTech”, a programme that will give women-founded/co-founded start-ups access to a year-long programme that provides tools, mentorship and resources to help overcome some of the barriers they face.
“Through Facebook #SheMeansBusiness and our new #SheLeadsTech programme we hope that by the end of 2017, we’ll have inspired more women across the country to take the leap — and help close the gap on that untapped opportunity for millions more women and in turn ensure our economy remains strong and thrives,” Das added.
The year-long programme will include access to “FBStart” which grants access to FBStart tools and resources and mentorship through a regular cadence of interactions with a pool of mentors.
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According to the findings, the most commonly cited reason that prevents women from setting up their business in India is the constraint of family responsibilities or commitments (38 percent).
Other key barriers are lack of access to finance (29 percent), worry over personal financial security (30 percent), and having an idea but not knowing where to get started (30 percent). Interestingly, small businesses on Facebook tell a different story.
There are more than two million active small businesses Pages on Facebook in India — and an increasing number of women are using this community to start and grow successful businesses.
In the last five years (between 2012 and 2016), the number of new women-owned SMB Pages on Facebook in India has increased seven-fold, growing 85 percent year on year from 2015 to 2016.
Nearly 87 percent of women surveyed also agree that having access to the right digital tools and support would help them get their business off the ground.
“We see amazing examples of how digital can be the equalizer on Facebook every day. How it gives women access to new opportunities, new markets, new ideas, all from their own home,” Das added. Facebook’s SheMeansBusiness was launched on International Women’s Day in 2016.
Through this initiative, Facebook has visited 18 cities across 6 states in India, providing skills training to more than 14,000 small business and self-help groups including 4,500 women entrepreneurs across the country.